At SSM Health we treat atrial fibrillation (AFib) with a wide range of nonsurgical, minimally invasive and surgical options. One of these minimally invasive treatments is ablation.
Ablation is a procedure used to treat atrial fibrillation, one of the most common heart rhythm ailments. If a doctor has told you that you are in AFib it means that the top two chambers of the heart - the atria - are beating rapidly and irregularly because of an electrical conduction problem. This rapid beating of the heart can lead to blood pooling and clotting in the heart, potentially causing a stroke. When your heart performs at a rapid pace for prolonged periods of time it can weaken and lead to congestive heart failure.
If you are suffering from atrial fibrillation that hasn’t responded to medication, or if you cannot tolerate your medication, your doctor may recommend the minimally invasive procedure of ablation. During ablation, your doctor will identify the area of the heart causing the problem and use heat to destroy that tissue, stopping the incorrect electrical signals, restoring a normal heart rhythm.
What Happens During Ablation
During this procedure, an SSM Health electrophysiologist or cardiologist advances a flexible catheter through the blood vessels and uses electrical heat energy to destroy heart tissue that is causing the abnormality. This is performed after your physician has carefully mapped the heart to identify areas that are causing the short-circuiting effect. The resulting scar lines create a maze redirecting the impulses along the correct route, restoring the heart rhythm and normal blood flow.
Your physician will take close-up pictures of the heart chambers during the procedure to help avoid damage to surrounding tissues and improve the safety of the procedure.
If your doctor finds that the affected heart tissue is too close to your heart’s blood supply or other critical structures, a freezing ablation technique may be used instead. This is done to minimize the risk to those structures. However, there is a higher risk of recurrence of your heart rhythm problem with this technique.
By forcing the heart to return to a normal rhythm, ablation helps patients feel better, reduces the risk of stroke and heart failure, and reduces the need for continuous medications. Atrial fibrillation patients referred to SSM Health have the advantage of having their cases reviewed collaboratively by an electrophysiologist and heart surgeon to determine what approach will provide the best outcome.
Find an SSM Health heart and vascular specialist near you. We’ll work with you to get your heart back in shape using the best treatment option for your condition.